LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The “Pope” of Holland House
John Allen to John Whishart, 19 August 1814

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Produced by CATH
Paris, Aug. 19, 1814.

Dear Sir,—You will be glad to hear that we have had a prosperous though slow journey, not having

1 Anne Seymour Damer, 1749-1828, sculptress, daughter of Field-Marshal Conway. She renounced her claim to Lord Clinton’s estate, to which by law she was entitled.

arrived here till the 10th. One day we were forced to sleep at Abbeville, and half a day at Breteuil; and after our arrival here
Lady Holland was obliged to remain two days at home in order to recover from the fatigues of her journey. But she is now quite re-established, and about the middle of next week I hope we shall begin our journey to Geneva.

Paris, as one had heard from all quarters, has certainly been much embellished by Buonaparte, though, unfortunately, much of what he had begun is not entirely finished, and considering the character of his successors it is doubtful whether they will have spirit and perseverance to execute the magnificent plan which he had formed, and in part accomplished. There is a strong feeling of regret and attachment towards him among the soldiery, but it does not seem to extend to persons of a better condition, and from the accounts of many of his warmest partisans it is clear that long before he had ceased to reign he had acquired all the faults inseparable from the exercise of despotic authority. Success and adulation had completely turned his head. He could not bear the slightest opposition to his will. He consulted with none but those who approved all his plans. He had such an overweening conceit of his own powers that when he had resolved on anything he imagined that every difficulty must give way before him, and that his mere will was sufficient to overcome every obstacle. The last campaign in Germany had worn out his constitution. From the time of his return to France he was in a state of affaisement physique. He ate, drank, and slept, and talked of what was to be done and of what
he would do; but he did nothing. He had quite lost his former activity and attention to business. When the Allies entered France they found his means of defence no further advanced than when he had crossed the Rhine. No entreaty could prevail on him to make an appeal to his people. When solicited to declare the country in danger, he replied, “Non, jamais; je ne ferais ma cour à la nation.” It was this obstinacy in his misfortunes to reject everything that had an appearance of an appeal to popular sentiment that finally alienated from him all the friends of liberty, and made them consider the restoration of the Bourbons as a smaller evil than the government of a master so deeply imbued with the maxims and feelings of despotism. At the same time he does not appear to have been cruel, and the fear he inspired seems to have proceeded rather from the outrageous violence of expression in which he frequently indulged than from positive acts of violence and severity. They who know him well say that his temper was naturally mild, and that he was overbearing, insolent, and impatient on calculation, thinking that it was in that way only mankind could be governed. But even they admit that he overacted his part, and made enemies unnecessarily by insulting those around him beyond what human nature could bear. The restoration of the Bourbons was certainly the work of
Talleyrand. There was no party for them at Paris except a few émigrés who owed their restoration to their country to Buonaparte’s clemency. The Emperor of Russia was himself undetermined what to do when he entered Paris.

The Slave Trade

We have had a great deal of conversation here about the Slave Trade. It is quite clear that the French have got the Slave Trade, because there was nothing else the Allies could agree to give them. They had been promised something more than they possessed before the Revolution. They wished for Nieuport and Mons, but these, they were told, were military or naval positions. They next applied for some territory on the Rhine which would extend their frontiers beyond Landau, but this also they were refused, and an offer was made them for the whole of Savoy. The King of France objected to Savoy, as it was inconsistent with the general principle of restoring all parties engaged in the war to the state in which they stood before 1792, to deprive the King of Sardinia of so considerable a part of his dominions. “But what, then, are we to have in return for so many strong places we are to give up?” “You shall have back your colonies.” “But our principal colony of St. Domingo can be of no use to us without the Slave Trade.” “Well, you shall have the Slave Trade for a certain number of years in order to enable you to replenish it with negroes.” Such I understand to have been the history of this negotiation. And at this moment I am confident that Ministers may have that article of the Treaty abrogated when they please, by procuring for France either something in Europe which will be considered by French vanity as an equivalent, or by ceding some foreign possession which does not require negroes for its cultivation. This you may safely state to your friends in the African Association, that the Slave Trade may be abolished on the
The Slave Trade
part of France to-morrow, provided you will give them or procure for them what may be considered as an equivalent, and from what I hear very little will satisfy them. They talk at present of the great importance of the Slave Trade to France, because they have nothing else to say in favour of the peace they have been compelled to make. Give them something else to boast of, and they will join with you in abusing it as a trade disgraceful to humanity, and most heartily assist you in compelling the Spaniards and Portuguese to give it up.

On the subject of the Slave Trade, I have an application to make to you, or another through you, to the African Association on the part of M. de Humboldt. In the course of his travels he has collected many observations on the bad effects of Slavery and of the Slave Trade, and in the present temper of France he is of opinion that he could say many things with great effect on that subject in the history of his travels which he is now publishing; but he is desirous of having all the information he can obtain through England, and I have promised to him in consequence that I would write to London to request that the reports of the African Association should be transmitted to him. He wishes also to have a copy of Mr. Brougham’s Act, and of the Act of the Assembly of Jamaica, by which slaves can no longer be distrained like cattle for the debts of their masters. I should be very much obliged if you could procure for him these and any other printed papers, showing what has taken place on the coast of Africa or in our colonies since the abolition. Direct them to the Baron de Humboldt at
The Slave Trade
Paris, to the care of the English Ambassador there, as he is on very good terms both with
Sir Charles Stuart and with the Duke of Wellington. Lord Holland means to write to Mr. Macaulay or to Mr. Clarkson to make the same request, but as it is possible he may not have time to do so, I think it better to mention it to you, in order that it may be done without loss of time. M. Humboldt is very zealous in the cause, and finding him at the same time very anxious to have permission to travel through our East Indian possessions in order to go to Thibet, I have assured him that nothing could be of more use to him towards obtaining that permission from the India Company than any service he could render the abolitionists, as Mr. Grant and other leading members in the direction were zealous partisans of the abolition. He is in very high estimation here, and anything he may choose to say will have great weight in giving a salutary tone to public opinion in France, which is at present not at all made up on this question. I trust, therefore, the friends of the abolition will not from indolence or inattention allow so good a card to slip from their hands. Mr. Tierney and his family arrived here two days ago, Vernon is also here on his way to Italy. Lord and Lady Jersey return to England by way of Brussels in the beginning of next week. I trust we shall see Horner and Murray either here or at Geneva. We must cross the Simplon early in October.

Yours faithfully,
J. Allen.